John McCain is running for President as the maverick, not any old maverick but “the” maverick frozen in American popular culture. The original Maverick was an ABC television show that ran from 1958-1962, starring James Garner as an inveterate (rather than a veteran) and not very chaste gambler. You have probably seen some of the reruns even if you did not see it in your living room (as I did) almost a half century ago, and, of course, you can always go to You Tube. Here is how the nostalgia site for the show describes the Black and White version of the Red, White and Blue riverboat gambler:

Maverick told the story of Bret Maverick, a card shark who lived during the Old West era. The show was originally a straightforward tale of his adventures, but it evolved when the writers began adding comedy into the scripts. Bret quickly became the television western’s first mercenary, a character who would help the forces of justice only if he stood to profit from doing so. When he did have to use a gun, he wasn’t much of a marksman. In fact, he was much more likely to slip out the backdoor when trouble began instead of sticking around for the fight. The writers also added a straight man for Bret in the form of his brother, Bart. He was more conservative than the devilish Bret, but just as unlikely to join any fight that he could avoid. The two characters began alternating as leads on the show as they journeyed through small towns with odd names like Oblivion and Apocalypse. Along the way, they associated with fellow card sharks like Dandy Jim Buckley and Gentleman Jack Darby. There was also Samantha Crawford, a lovely female rogue who loved to challenge the Maverick brothers to see who could out-con the other. All these elements helped make Maverick a television western that stood out. Audiences responded to the mix of traditional Western adventure and good-natured humor, making the show an instant hit. Bret Maverick in particular became a hero for many armchair cowboys.

The Republican Convention coming up in St. Paul (this name alone should appease the Evangelicals who voted for Huckabee) will frame McCain as the war hero (forgetting how unpopular and disastrous that war was and the fact that 58,000 of his comrades never came back) that justifiably he was. But the feel-good video introduction will probably not show Gambler-in-Chief McCain at a blackjack table on a Mississippi casino boat or show pictures of the first wife he jilted to marry a socialite beer-distributor queen who crashed her Porsche as a college student. Choosing Governor Palin of Alaska is perhaps the ultimate gambler’s bluff. Bet the farm (or one of the townhouses) on blind gender solidarity, hoping that because women have the right to vote (no thanks to the old Republican Party) they will vote for another woman no matter what her record or lack thereof.

McCain’s gambit may pay off, as any poker player knows. It’s not always the cards you hold but the fear you instill. And any leader willing to crash the gates of hell to find the world’s number one terrorist (when the entire U.S. government has not been able to do so for seven years) is surely to be feared. In true Maverick fashion, “luck is the lady that he loves best,” as the theme song to the show reminds us, is the change his campaign believes in. Perhaps someone should tell that to Governor Palin when Troopergate hits the media and all those armchair cowboys get out wrestled.

Luke R. E. Publican